Blogs: The Reinvented Pharmacist

Drug Distribution: Nothing More Than a Commodity Business?

Published Online: Monday, August 13, 2012
It looks like I was wrong. When Walgreens made the decision to terminate participation in the Express Script network, I said it would be good for both Walgreens and the profession. Based on a number of reports recently it looks like Walgreens lost money and a number of other pharmacies gained what Walgreens lost.
I thought the Walgreens decision would help to convey the idea to the marketplace that drug dispensing is not a commodity activity. Although it isn’t known what Walgreens gained when they came back into the Express Script network, maybe they benefited financially with the new contract they received. Now that Walgreens has settled with Express Scripts and are back in their network they will be working to try to win back lost customers.
Depending on what tactics Walgreens tries, such as financial incentives, loyalty programs, or coupons for switching prescription, I am afraid that any of these tactics will simply suggest that drug distribution is nothing more than a commodity business. Perhaps I am just not thinking like a businessperson and holding onto an unrealistic professional idealism, but it looks like both Walgreens and the profession lost by last year’s decision by Walgreens to exit from the Express Script network. What do you think?
Fred Eckel, RPh, MS, Editor-in-Chief of Pharmacy Times
Blog Info
This blog focuses on what our Editor-in-Chief sees as the future of pharmacy.
Author Bio
Fred Eckel, RPh, MS, is the Editor-in-Chief of Pharmacy Times, a position he has held since 2002. Mr. Eckel is a professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He serves as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists.

In this blog, Eckel will provide commentary on relevant issues impacting pharmacists and pharmacy professionals, including the merging of pharmacy benefit managers, the implications of health care reform, the conversion of major drugs from prescription to over-the-counter, trends in pharmacy careers, and opioid abuse. He will also discuss legislative issues that impact pharmacists, and comment on the evolving role of the pharmacist.
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